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Fear of Flying

Thu, Apr 26, 2001 06:06PM -0600

Yeah, maybe that's it. That's why I've gotten so contemplative....

Driving down to the bank today, I randomly recalled the phone conversation I was having with my friend Bram, about the importance of having fun and basically just chilling out.

Now, I find that an admirable goal, to just have fun, but ultimately, it seems rather self-limiting. At least for me. Now, I have been long diagnosed as an INTJ by the Keirsey Temperament Test (only recently converting to an INTF.) In any case, I think my status as an introvert is pretty well cemented. And as an introvert, it has been my experience that having fun requires considerable expenditures of energy, and I can't seem to draw upon the energy of people around me. The more energetic everyone else is, the more tired I get. I don't know, maybe it's physiological.

Maybe ultimately, the problem with me is that I don't know how to have fun. I'm serious. My neurons have all-of-the-sudden become too precious for me to look forward to bouts of binge drinking or recreational drug use (despite my friend Nancy's revelation that apparently most health care professionals are closet drunks and junkies...), and without that, I really just don't know what to do with myself at parties or at clubs.

It's a sad sorry state of affairs when my only conception of enjoyment is imbibing, inhaling, or ingesting poison.

But other than intoxication, maybe I don't know what fun is. For others, it's just hanging out with friends, and this is great when you can make friends easily. But it just happens that most of my friends are either thousands of miles away or incredibly busy, and I haven't had much of a chance to just hang out.

And I'm terrible at thinking of fun things to do, which is undoubtedly the reason why I haven't had a date in years.

See, most of the things that I enjoy doing are very solitary endeavors and hard for me to share with other people. Reading novels. Writing poetry. Sleeping. Just gazing up at the sky and thinking.

If I'm on, or if I'm with people I groove with, then I can manage to converse pretty well. But, otherwise, like I said, it just takes too much energy, and then I stop having fun.

Partly it's because I'm too self-conscious. Sad to say, but a lot of the people I run into have totally bought into the cult of materialism and of the silver screen. Clothes, cars, the bling-bling and the cheese, who's rich, who's famous, who's hot, who's not. Everything that I cannot bring myself to buy into. So I feel like all these people hold me in contempt. I have no ability to manuever in any of these realms, nor do I really have the desire to, and I'm just left sad, empty, and confused, and with the feeling that life is completely futile.

But what do I truly want from people? Well, I think Bram really hit the nail on the head with regards to who I make friends with, at least in some conditions. Most of the time, I find that I make the strongest connections with people when I am completely vulnerable. Like after some kind of psychological trauma that leaves me babbling and confused. Like breaking up with a long time girlfriend, being unable to let go of an unrequited love, or not getting admitted to med school for the second year in a row and consequently not having much a plan for the future. The only reason I made it through these situations is that people realized that I was just lost, they had time and energy to give freely, and they took me under their wing. We wouldn't even talk about what had hit me...it was just enough to just hangout, and do stuff that would get my mind off my worries.

But when I'm not psychologically wounded, I find it very difficult to make friends. And this is when Bram's diagnosis kicks in. All my defenses are up, and I can find the least excuse to not pursue further relations with people. Because in the end, I am afraid of people. I'm afraid of being dissected by their value systems, being judged and not passing muster, of being rejected, of being laughed at. And what is worse is that these fears are not unrealistic at all. So instead, I mask my insecurities with contempt, I try to be inoffensive and agreeable in large groups with people I don't know well, and if I can't manage that, then I just stay home, looking forward to hanging out and talking with my existing friends.

So what is it I want from other people? Well, I figured this out, with a little prodding from Bram. I like it best when I'm in a sticky situation that requires all my intelligence and skills to get out of, but not so oppressive that there's no hope of success. Something intellectual challenging, with fearful consequences should we fail. Maybe a concrete, definable enemy. And my friends would be fellow sufferrers...whose help I need. We'd be a team, helping each other out to get through whatever madness surrounds us.

Because it's really crisis that brings out the best in people. And the worst too, but in my dream world, all my friends would be virtuous, even when the odds are direst. There would be no selling each other out, no surrendering, no ratting on one another, no deals with enemy. Stick together until the bitter end.

In truth, some of the people I know fit these criteria. People who I would entrust my life with. People who I would die for. But they are few and far between, and I know it is difficult to remain virtuous in a culture that values selfishness over all else. And it is not unlikely that I might fail them, so I dare not demand their reciprocal trust.

But I think this is partly why I wanted to go to med school, why I romanticize World War II, and why I can't just look out for #1, even though that's what this culture seems to demand.

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